Dahlias and Roses on a Painted Shelf


It’s turning into a mini tradition of mine to arrange my ‘Café-au-Lait’ dahlias in this yellow jug on our kitchen shelf in autumn (for previous years see here and here). This dahlia is a late bloomer, but once it does it’s pretty reliable and always lovely. After idly wondering what I could do to make this year’s vase a little different, I found that I had only the one bloom out at the moment (with three or four more on their way) and decided to add some pale roses into the mix.




Here we have ‘The Lady Gardener’ to the left of the dahlia, the pale pink single ‘Many Happy Returns’ above, and ‘A Shropshire Lad’ to the right.

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, and I recommend visiting her page to see her vase and follow links to all the other vases created by garden bloggers across the world today.


In The Garden: October

Welcome to my new monthly In The Garden report, which begins in this glorious (and possibly my favourite) month of October. The cool, damp air is filled with the attar of log fires and fallen leaves, the daylight is dimming, the foliage in the garden is dying back, and still there are a multitude of floral charms to delight, thrill, and sometimes astonish the senses.

Looking Good in October


One of the aforementioned astonishing charms in my garden is the mass of sweetpeas that still show no signs of stopping. I have more or less ceased picking them as the stems are now much shorter, and I don’t look at them too closely as in many cases the petals have succumbed to aphids, and are more prone to getting sodden with rain. But in these cooler, wetter days the stems are nonetheless promising to produce and last till the first frosts.





Behind the sweetpeas in the back garden is a mass of Salvias including SalviaAmistad, its purple fingers growing on shoots almost as tall as the sweetpeas. On the opposite side of the path, ‘Wendy’s Wish’, ‘Love and Wishes’, and ‘Ember’s Wish’ from the ‘Wish’ triplet of salvias are looking just as good.



My dalhias remain in full stride. In particular, ‘Totally Tangerine’ has been going strong since late July, and has not yet lost steam, while ‘Café-au-Lait’ is providing me with more flowers than I know what to do with.




In the front garden, I am enjoying the upward-fluting petals of the Cyclamen hederifolium against the dark leaf-mould beneath the ‘Morello’ cherry sapling.



While some ferns are going over, the new foliage of the bronze-leaved Dryopteris erythrosora looks fresh and neat against the terracotta bricks of the terrace.



Ammi visagna is – just – clinging on and still providing pretty filler stems for my vases.



The Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ has tolerated its move into a larger pot and is still delighting with its diminuitive, neat blooms. When they age and become papery, I will see how they dry.



A plant that was underrated by me when I first bought it, this unknown Nemesia tumbles charmingly from its pot, gracing the air with its delicious vanilla scent. I brought a sprig indoors, and though it lasted only a day or so, the kitchen was filled with its gorgeous aroma.



Three or four crowns of Geranium ‘Rozanne’ continue to potter about in the borders quite contentedly of their own accord, asking nothing, giving plenty in return. The perfect plant?




Pretty window boxes of Erigeron, apple mint and sedum look set to carry on through till November.


The second flush on my roses has dallied disgracefully. But I love these tight flame-coloured buds, despite their faithless promise of blooms.


And finally – though I hesitate to put this under ‘Looking Good’ – three surviving Nicotiana seedlings eventually did their thing, one of which has possibly been taking banned substances while my back was turned. It comes in at about 5’9″, and I can’t say I’m delighted about those fleshy leaves blocking the light from everything behind it; I rescued an ailing alstromeria just in time from beneath its gigantic shadow. It’s going to need a compost heap all of its own when I cut it back.


Gardening Jobs for October

There are plenty of tasks to do in the Scottish garden in October. This month, my garden jobs have included:

  1. Finishing collecting seed from my annuals, including Calendula officinalis ‘Indian Prince’, Cerinthe major, and Papaver somniferum ‘Black Paeony’.
  2. Spreading last year’s leaf mould on the garden, particularly around my Cyclamen hederifolium, which prefer plenty of organic matter but would find compost or well-rotted manure too rich, and begin collecting fallen leaves for next year’s batch.
  3. Moving perennials that need a new spot. Now is the perfect time, as the soil is still warm and they will have time to root into their new homes before the frosts arrive.
  4. Taking cuttings of my favourite plants, either those that are not hardy and may not survive winter, or those that I wish to increase stock of. My cuttings include osteospermum, salvias, French tarragon, penstemons, mint, lemon verbena, and Nepeta.
  5. Cutting back fading perennials, being careful to leave those that still have autumn interest. Sweetpeas can also be cut down once they are past their best, but I leave their roots to rot down in the soil.
  6. Moving any self-seeded foxgloves into their final flowering positions.
  7. Monitoring the temperature forecast and bring houseplants indoors on colder nights. My rule of thumb is to bring tender houseplants indoors once night-time temperatures have dropped below 9 degrees.
  8. Planting bulbs. I plant all my bulbs such as daffodils, irises, crocuses, alliums and muscari in October, but leave tulips until November or even December, once the first frosts have been.
  9. Turning the compost heap every fortnight, and continuing to add chopped garden cuttings, woody matter such as shredded paper and egg boxes, and kitchen vegetable waste. After turning, I often ‘mulch’ the top of my heap with a modest layer of heat-giving grass cuttings for insulation and a nitrogen boost.
  10. Ensuring that tall plants such as dahlias and nicotiana are staked against winds and rain.

And so before I end, here follow a few views of the garden this month. As you will see, the slugs have been at my kale, and the Christmas tree has yet to find its spiritual home in the garden, but good things have been happening too: my Clematis montana ‘Miss Christine’ is obediently, nay, enthusiastically, making its way up the arch, my Sempervivum has divided into about 40 tiny individuals (I am looking forward to giving some away as gifts), my new tool rack is doing an excellent job of keeping the tools neat and tidy, and my native primroses, which I grew from seed, have flourished into many healthy plants that I will be planting around the garden and elsewhere (more about that later).




I realise it has been many months since I last showed you pictures of my garden. The reason for this is that I have been rethinking the way I describe the month-by-month development and seasonal changes that go on here, and it has taken me a while to come up with a tentative format. For a long time, I have been a fairly dedicated partaker in Helen at The Patient Gardener’s End of Month View, but I no longer feel that this wonderful meme quite does everything I need it to do. I fancied a change; besides, EOMV requires me to be on time with my photos, and I’m not a deadline kinda girl. There are other memes I would like to join in with, such as Tuesday View, Bloom Day and Foliage Day, but these have even stricter deadlines than Helen’s, and my opportunities for taking photos in the garden are too limited by my working week, the prevailing weather, and restricted daylight hours for me to be precise about days, or even sometimes weeks, when it comes to posting. I’ve therefore come up with a Swiss-army meme of my own called In The Garden, which will encompass a month-by-month view, ‘looking good now’, and monthly garden jobs. I’ll aim to post during the month I’m talking about: even I can cope with a 30-day deadline! I’m not scouting for joiners, since I realise there are enough memes out there already for everyone to be keeping up with. But if you wish to join in, then by all means do so, linking to my post and leaving a comment so that I can find yours.]

A Race Against the Clock

This weekend my husband and I raced against more than 660 tough-looking dudes and gals to run, cycle and kayak across Scotland, from Nairn in the east to Ballachulish in the west. We managed the whole thing in just under 14 hours over two days, and although we were not attempting to win any prizes (our two aims were to survive and have fun; both targets definitely achieved) we were pleasantly surprised to find that we’d finished far further up the leader board than we’d anticipated.


We drove home today, and once we’d unloaded the car of muddy bikes and even muddier trail shoes, we both promptly fell asleep on the bed. At about five o’clock I woke up and … this is becoming a familiar theme… remembered that it was Monday and there was something important still to do. The light was already failing, and as I prefer to photograph in natural light I was going to have to look smartish if I was going to get my vase made and photographed in time. Out in the garden, after a week of warm, wet weather, the sweetpeas, Verbena rigida, and Ammi visagna had gone berserk. But better than that, my first ‘Café au Lait’ dahlia had finally bloomed. And what a bloom! Big as my face, with creamy flames bursting forth like one of those stylised suns that inhabit the corners of old maps, nibbled here and there by an appreciative insect, it seemed to need nothing alongside it in this plain blue vase but a sprig of foliage, and even that sprig’s a moot point. I put it on the mantelpiece in our west-facing sitting room, which was gloomy as the back of a cave by now. Thank goodness for my tripod and Lightroom’s exposure adjustment. Another half hour and this photograph would have had to have waited till tomorrow.


Because my last few vases have been so simple and because there were so many other lovely things to pick in the garden today, I also filled a frothy, frilly, fussy vase full of sweetpeas, verbena, ammi, fuchsia, and the last tiny buddleia blooms to make a shamelessly vintage arrangement for our bedroom. By the time I had finished, the final efforts of this afternoon’s daylight was falling upon this window seat in our kitchen.

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by the poetic Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, where you will find hers alongside links to many other vases each Monday.


Necessarily simple: dahlias and cornflowers


Although unusually I am not at work today, I still had to pick and arrange my Monday vase quickly and efficiently as The Brazilian and I were intending to go on a long bike ride through the Pentlands in training for our Coast to Coast race next weekend. The ‘Totally Tangerines’ were already picked and in this vase, as I’d cut them for this Instagram photo yesterday. All I had to do was add some cornflower buttons and a charming accompaniment, a cheerful beach hut, in celebration of the sun’s shining most wonderfully outside.

I think cornflowers are my favourite flowers for a vase this year.

In the end, The Brazilian pushed himself too hard at the gym and felt quite sick, so we cancelled the Pentlands trip and that meant I could …. garden instead.

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by the fabulous Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.



Flowers, basically

As spring turned to early summer, and early summer flourished into late, I’ve enjoyed making thorough use of the growing abundance of flowers that come at these wonderful times for Cathy at Rambling in the Garden‘s ‘In a Vase on Monday’ challenge. My arrangements have got bigger, grander, more experimental and more confident with every passing week, a far cry from the simple posies that represented my earliest attempts. However, as often happens when getting a vague handle on a new skill, I got over-confident and last week I produced a vase that I wasn’t happy with at all. The individual flowers in this vase were all quite beautiful in themselves; it was the confluence of these flowers that was the failure. They just didn’t go together.

So this week I thought I’d go back to basics. I put away all my beautiful vases, and took out five or six clean, empty jam jars. I filled them with water and set them out on the garden table. Then I went around the garden with my scissors and started to fill the jars; but this week, I gave myself a rule, which was that each jam jar could contain no more than three different flower types. Oh, I did have fun. I might continue to set myself this challenge from time to time in the future.

Then I placed my jars in various spots around the house. A big, grand vase of flowers is a very fine thing indeed, but a wee jar of simple flowers in every nook and cranny is a different delight altogether.

Sweetpea ‘Red Arrow’, D. ‘Totally Tangerine’, and Dryopteris erythrosora (I think), guarded valiantly by Bismarck the Nutcracker on the shelf above the fireplace
Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Sweetpea ‘White Supreme’, and Verbena rigida on the bedstead.
Sweetpeas ‘White Supreme’ and ‘Eclipse’, Thalictrum (meadow-rue), and lavender on the rocking chair
Echinops, Sweetpea ‘White Supreme’ and dill rescued from last week’s disastrous vase on the shelf above the fireplace in the Brazilian’s office, along with a few of his favourite things. (Actually, he deplores Nietzsche. I don’t know how those got in there.)
Three sweetpeas: ‘Mollie Rilstone’, ‘Dark Passion’ and ‘White Supreme’ beside an empty silver photo frame on my chest-of-drawers. The frame was a wedding gift and I still haven’t got round to printing out one of our wedding photos to go inside it. I suppose I’ve been too busy gardening, as represented here by brown garden string.

End of March View 2016

IMG_9886IMG_9885IMG_9884 Even as I edit these photos, which I took just four days ago, I can see that spring growth has already progressed. The skimmia buds have now opened almost completely, the drumstick primulas have grown another inch, and the hyacinths have stuck their chests out like indignant body-builders. Despite today’s stormy skies and my having to scrape the car windscreen of frost yesterday morning, the garden is blundering onwards in happy spring-time oblivion, well nourished by the weeks of sunshine we had throughout late February and March.


Spring is for colour, and this native primrose, a self-seeded gleaning from my grandmother’s garden, clashes joyfully with its vermilion neighbour, a winter heather that has doubled in size this past year. A lilac drumstick primula prepares to leap like a slow motion Jack-in-a-box from its crown, and nearby several of its divisions do the same.



Spring is for bulbs, and hyacinths burst out through the gravel of their old wooden pot, while their diminutive cousins, grape hyacinths or muscari, stand proud of theirs.





Spring is for scent, and a new Camellia ‘Silver Anniversary’, a Christmas present from my mother, competes with Skimmia Rubella for a prize in deliciousness.



Spring is for new replacing old, and while the hellebore blooms begin to fade, seedlings and cuttings have started to grow up and will soon need pricking out, and potted dahlias wait in rows in the cold frame for warmer times to come.

End of Month View is hosted by Helen at The Patient Gardener. Do visit her page and see how spring is cracking on in other people’s gardens.


In a vase on Monday: Fading dahlias on an unpainted shelf

IMG_0278My Café au Lait dahlias were longing to be picked, their oversized heads drooping in the November drizzle. They have been out for over a month now, and still the flowers are firm and fabulous, though just turning the hint of brown at the edges. I could see they were going to be zapped by a frost sooner or later, and thought they would be better off inside. The leaves of the plants are spotting black already. The unopened buds that remain on them may never open, now that the sun passes over the garden in less than an hour.

IMG_0275This yellow jug was the perfect vessel, and here it stands on the open shelves of our kitchen, which Henry the painter has yet to paint. I tried adding other flowers to the jug, but I had nothing that did my dahlias justice.

I could not have predicted that my dahlia experiment would be this successful. Next year I shall move them to a sunnier spot and perhaps invest in more varieties.

IMG_0281 In a vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden so please follow this link to her blog and see all the wonderful vases that have been created today by other garden bloggers.